Housing market lull ‘spreads from London’…

A slowdown in the housing market is spreading from London to other parts of the South East of England, surveyors suggest.

While the region is pulling down activity and average price growth in the UK, other areas saw price rises.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said Northern Ireland, the West Midlands and the South West of England posted increases in July.

Overall, 1% more UK surveyors reported prices rising rather than falling.

House prices remained “quite firmly on an upward trend” in some areas, Rics said.

But the balance of UK surveyors reporting price rises in July was down from 7% in June, partly owing to more surveyors in the South East reporting house price falls than the number reporting increases – a welcome move for many potential first-time buyers struggling to buy in this area.

UK house price change graph

The most expensive homes are particularly likely to have seen cuts in the asking price before being sold.

The July survey also found that, over the previous two months, there had been a particular gap between the original asking price and the agreed selling price for these homes.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at Rics, said: “Sales activity in the housing market has been slipping in the recent months and the most worrying aspect of the latest survey is the suggestion that this could continue for some time to come.

“One reason for this is the recent series of tax changes but this is only part of the story. Lack of new build in the wake of the financial crisis is a more fundamental factor weighing on the market. And there are some very real consequences for the economy from all of this including the impact on the ability of people to be mobile when looking for work.”

Estate agents’ views

The regional disparities are evident from estate agents asked for their views in the Rics survey.

In the South West, James McKillop, of Knight Frank, said: “Some minor price reductions have triggered a good level of viewings and offers with an increasing number of deals as a result.”

Many still point to a lack of supply as maintaining house price growth.

In the South and South East one estate agent said “real change is in the air” with many pointing to the questionable expectations of sellers.

Anthony Webb, from Trenchard Arlidge in Surrey, said: “Many asking prices are still at levels never seen and are too high.”

Mark Everett, based in Epsom in Surrey, said: “The market is desperately price sensitive and too much stock is unrealistically overpriced.”

Houses in LondonImage copyright Reuters

High-end estate agent Savills flagged a slowing residential market, despite reporting a rise in first-half profits.

Separately, Savills updated the picture for commercial transactions in the UK, in which 78% of its business went to buyers from outside of the UK.

Investors from overseas saw the UK as “comparatively secure”, it said.

However, it pointed to potential changes that could affect one of the major sources of overseas investment.

“Additional controls over the export of capital from China are likely to reduce current levels of international real estate investment from that region,” it said.